“I am happy because I feel that I’ve done something useful to help these girls out.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Karen Marin
Age: 25
Hometown: Greenwich, Connecticut
Nationality: Colombia
Languages spoken: Spanish, English (fluent) and French (beginner)
University: Quinnipiac University
Degree: Communications
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at a Shelter for Girls in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: August 2015
Claim to fame: During her Junior year in College, Karen studied in Paris, France for 4 months.

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
After doing an extensive research, I found UBELONG to be the right fit for me as I truly liked the programs they were offering and the fact it was affordable. It also helped that a friend who had volunteered with UBELONG in Cambodia recommended me to apply with them. I guess I was really captivated by their humbleness and desire to help other cultures, and I love that they are willing to work with you to make sure you feel safe, comfortable and open minded about your projects.

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I have to say assisting at a shelter for girls who’ve been abandoned, neglected and abused it was a tough challenge because as a volunteer you have to stay objective and you can’t take too many things too personal. It favored me that I spoke Spanish so it was beautiful to carry conversations with the girls and I think my impact on them was that I was able to share my own experiences and express my own feelings with them. Through that,  I encouraged them to keep on fighting and to be more optimistic because they all have potential to have great futures. My biggest lesson to them was that it is so important, and so sacred to pursue an education. It’s not about gender, or inequality it is about them being worthy of getting an education and they truly were inspired by it because they all shared with me how they wanted to become doctors, lawyers, teachers. It was just an amazing experience.

What were your major challenges?
As an explorer I didn’t have any challenges because I spoke the language and everyone you encountered on the streets of Cusco, they were all friendly and helpful. However, during my project sometimes it got frustrating because some of the girls weren’t cooperating or did not want to involve themselves with activities. Then again you have to understand and this takes a lot of patience as well to try to communicate with the girls and ask them about what is it that’s bothering them. I remembered one time a girl just walked out and began crying. I approached her and it turns out she was getting picked on and bullying is something I do not tolerate. I made sure to talk to the staff but when talking to the girl I told her that she shouldn’t pay attention to silly things like that.  I remembered telling her that she was a beautiful and bright girl and she shouldn’t let people decide who she is. I was hurt to be honest, because nobody should feel that way. Luckily she got over the situation, and went back in the class. It’s always good to talk to them, because it shows that you care.

What is your favorite memory?
One of my favorite memories was when I had the opportunity to teach English to a group of 10 girls. It was my favorite because the girls were so happy and their smiles on their faces just made my day! I remember teaching them the colors, shapes, and basic words and they were so excited and giggled when they would pronounce the words it was a very sweet yet innocent moment. They are so smart, it is unreal. Their consistency to learn and to make sure they were writing the right words, it was truly amazing to see. Not once did they complain, matter of fact they were a bit hard on themselves because they genuinely  wanted to learn English. I remembered it was a great day for me because I went back to the hostel where I stayed and shared my day with my friends and they couldn’t help but notice how happy I was, because I felt that I’ve done something useful to help these girls out. I loved every minute of it.

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Related Post:
Meet Meredith Yung, a Oregon State University student who volunteered with UBELONG in Cusco, Peru at the Caring for Orphans project.